Behind the Book


Maybe because I was born in a car—a 1953 Ford Fairlane, to be exact—I’ve always had a fascination for them. No, I’m not a mechanic, not by a long stretch of the imagination, but I’m interested in ways in which they’re used unexpectedly. I know, for example, that when my father purchased the aforementioned Ford Fairlane, he wasn’t planning to use it as a birthing room for me, his oldest daughter.

I’m not the only person who has ever been born in a car, but seriously, they’re not advertised for that purpose.

So whenever I see an abandoned automobile sitting out in the middle of a pasture or resting beside a creek bed, I wonder about its “mystery.” (Ever notice how much the word mystery looks like my story?) Why did someone leave it there? What happened that caused the car to be abandoned? Did the car fail the driver? Or did the driver fail the car? And just because it’s not rolling, why couldn’t it still be useful?

Likewise, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for raccoons. With their dexterity and smarts, they manage to set up housekeeping just about anywhere. I should know. I had a whole family of them living in my chimney! Raccoons can be found in both city and country, and in all points north, south, east, west.

So it made sense to me that a family of smart raccoons would see an abandoned car as a perfect place to raise their kits. After all, others have been born in automobiles (see first paragraph). If all the windows were closed then it would be safe and dry, too. Perfect!

With that scenario, then, I started considering The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.

Why, you might ask, after The Underneath, did I return to the swamp? When I was younger, I lived for a brief time in deep East Texas, which has its share of swamps. If you’ve ever tramped around in a swamp, then you know that it holds a combination of danger and enchantment. I felt like I had explored the danger side of swamp life in my earlier book, and it was time to visit the enchantment side of it. And I also think that swamps get short shrift when it comes to truly treasuring our ecosystems. So, it seemed important somehow to remind myself, and hopefully my readers, of their intrinsic value, especially in terms of a mystical setting for a story.

And finally, I truly do long for the return of the ivory billed Woodpecker, Ghost Bird, Lord God Bird. But unless we take care of their remaining habitat, the hope of that occurring is less than zero. Surely, we can save some space for the return of such a bird. My book isn’t a treatise for that, but my hope is that maybe it’ll be a reminder.

In the meantime, could we please have some sugar pies?